The Friday slate begins with the conclusion of last Sunday's suspended game between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, with the Orioles leading 5-3 in the top of the sixth. The game will be finished in Nationals Park, with Baltimore remaining the home team. Washington will be the home club for the regularly scheduled affair.
For those in ESPN leagues, all stats generated from the resumption of the contest will count toward last week's scoring period, assuming involved players were active last Sunday. Please be aware the statistics from the resumed game will not populate Live Scoring, but they will be reflected in Saturday morning's official standings. Neither starting pitcher is in line for the win, as Stephen Strasburg struggled in his 2020 debut and Asher Wojciechowski was lifted after just 3⅔ innings. However, if the Nationals don't stage a comeback and Strasburg doesn't bounce back in the evening affair, he could be saddled with two losses on the same day -- one counting last week and one this week for fantasy purposes.
In general, the Friday docket is more reminiscent of a typical schedule from recent years, with a good mix of talent from all levels. The early part of this week featured some of the weaker arms in the league, helping to fuel the offensive rebound.
Framber Valdez (L), rostered in 29% of ESPN leagues, Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners: Valdez has pitched much better than his 0-2 record indicates. He deserves to be 2-1, having allowed just one run over 13⅓ frames spanning his last two starts. He's fanned an impressive 17 in that stretch with just two walks.
Pablo Lopez (R), 20%, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves: Some may look at the four walks Lopez gave up his last time out against the New York Mets and shy away. However, a look under the hood shows that Lopez has Statcast numbers that are extremely encouraging. He's limiting hard contact and has altered his pitch mix. The 24-year-old righty has also increased the spin rate on his four-seam fastball, helping to change the eye level between it and his changeup. Lopez is also using his changeup more.
Yusei Kikuchi (L), 8%, Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros: For the past several seasons, streaming against the Astros wasn't a consideration. However, injuries and a few key hitters being slow out of the gate have put opposing pitchers in play. That said, Houston's lineup is still scoring runs and doesn't fan much. As a team, the Astros are just not hitting homers. Last year, the longball was Kikuchi's primary problem, as he allowed 36 over 161⅓ innings. So far this season, no one has taken the left-hander deep. There's risk here as both trends could flip (Houston flexing its muscle and Kikuchi reverting to last season's form), but if you're desperate for another start this week, Kikuchi is almost certainly available.
Chad Kuhl (R), 1%, Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds: Kuhl and Steven Brault have been splitting time, but Joe Musgrove's injury has forced both into the rotation. Kuhl won't be able to work deep into the game, but having thrown four frames in his last time out, he's stretched out enough to qualify for a win, contingent upon his teammates snapping out of their collective malaise at the plate. To date, Kuhl has been handling his part, punching out a dozen hitters with just three free passes in his nine frames.
With more leagues incorporating holds into their scoring this season, let's look at the leaders in the category. Through Wednesday's action, Jake Diekman, Tyler Duffey, Jordan Romano, Yusmeiro Petit, Emilio Pagan, Justin Wilson and Tyler Rogers were all tied with five. Romano is particularly interesting, as he's whiffed 13 in nine innings and current Blue Jays closer Anthony Bass is by no means a lock to keep the job until Ken Giles returns, which won't be until September -- if he comes back at all.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, consult our Closer Chart.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Max Stassi (R), 42%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw): Acquired by the Angels largely due to his pitch-framing skills, a hot start has earned the 29-year-old backstop more than just the short side of a platoon. That said, he's swatted all four of his homers against southpaw pitching. Stassi's success is at least partly attributable to off-season hip surgery, which has allowed him to rework his mechanics. Stassi crouches more, generating more torque and rotation during his shortened swing. Kershaw is still one of the better hurlers in the league but is susceptible to the longball.
First Base -- Ji-Man Choi (S), 5%, Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Tanner Roark): The narrative with Sahlen Field in Buffalo is to check the game time winds, as they've been known to whip in off the lake. On Wednesday night, the Blue Jays took advantage of an 8 mph breeze to club six out of the yard. If the conditions cooperate, Choi is in play, as Roark is homer-prone and has already given up two blasts in just eight innings so far this season.
Second Base -- Cesar Hernandez (S), 49%, Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers (RHP Ivan Nova): The Indians' offense is one of the weakest in the league, but don't blame Hernandez! The leadoff hitter is getting on base at a 38% clip. Historically, Nova allows an excess of baserunners, sporting a 1.46 WHIP since 2019.
Third Base -- Travis Shaw (L), 4%, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Trevor Richards): Shaw has hit safely in four of his last five games, including a two-homer affair on Thursday. Richards has kept the ball in the yard through 9 1/3 frames this summer, but gave up 19 HR in 135 1/3 stanzas last season.
Shortstop -- Jake Cronenworth (L), 16%, San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Merrill Kelly): With Eric Hosmer back, Cronenworth is in a time-share with Jurickson Profar. Cronenworth should receive most of the playing time with a righty on the hill, but if the switch-hitting Profar is in the lineup instead, he's an option as well. Kelly's ratios are low due to one walk in 19 2/3 innings. However, he's fanned just 15 while allowing four homers.
Corner Infield -- Marwin Gonzalez (S), 36%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): My apologies, as an effort was made to feature someone other than Gonzalez, a frequent visitor in this space. What can I say? He keeps producing, and the matchup is too enticing. Mostly filling in for Josh Donaldson, Gonzalez is slashing .318/.340/.409 for the month. Junis has yet to get untracked, posting a generous 1.67 WHIP with only four strikeouts in nine innings.
Middle Infield -- Nicky Lopez (L), 2%, Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins (RHP Jake Odorizzi): After a sluggish first week, Lopez has found his stroke and has posted a .296/.367/.519 line so far in August. The Royals' offense has been more potent than expected, helping Lopez cross the plate four times over the past week.
Outfield -- David Peralta (L), 37%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Dinelson Lamet): Peralta and teammate Kole Calhoun are also Daily Notes mainstays and always in play with the opposition sending a right-hander to the hill. Lamet is one of the up-and-coming arms in the league, but he's still a bit raw.
Outfield -- Willie Calhoun (L), 34%, Texas Rangers at Colorado Rockies (RHP Ryan Castellani): The Rangers are faced with a conundrum, having to play either Calhoun or Shin-Soo Choo in the cavernous left field in Coors. That said, at least they get to keep both bats in the lineup. Calhoun and Choo are both options, stepping in against a right-hander getting his first taste of this unforgiving home park.
Outfield -- Corey Dickerson (L), 23%, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Kyle Wright): The Braves have needed this pitcher to step up. Thus far, Wright's been rather wrong. Last time out, he managed to go six innings but only fanned three while serving up a pair of dingers. Hitters took a couple of weeks to get their timing down, and since the Marlins missed several games, it's taking some of their bats a little bit longer. Dickerson has gone three consecutive games without fanning, though, a good sign that he's on the verge of busting out.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.